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  • Billy Michels

Treatment 4 - Finding Normal

The "Peace Trees" of Assateague Island

Mental and Physical

Treatment #4 has come and gone, only 8 more to go (woohoo)! At this point I am recognizing the patterns that the chemo treatments are dishing out and how my body and mind are reacting. The physical becomes more predictable, yet the mental is still a crapshoot. Happy as fuck one hour, then crying like a baby the next. Calm and confident one minute, then a spastic anxiety-ridden depressed want to crawl under a pile of crap wet noodle the next. Luckily for me, I am more practiced at the calm and confident side, and will turn to breathing, meditation, and mind work to stay there as much as possible. When the sadness comes, I let it flow with me. I don't resist it or hide it. It needs to happen and I welcome it - reminds me that I am human. Slows me down, and makes me realize just how serious this is, and how I must respect it.

Physically, the waves are predictable by day: Monday tired but ok, Tuesday and Wednesday wired on steroids, Thursday and Friday crash hard, Saturday and Sunday ramp back to "normal-ish", then I ride the good wave for a week. I cannot wait to have 100% of my energy back for 100% of my life. Still thanking the Universe and my support system for the lack of serious side effects. Still no nausea, no sickness, no neuropathy, and I haven't lost a pound.

My sister Mandy and I knocking out 6 miles at Pattapsco Valley State Park. Clearing the mind, the soul, and keeping the blood and Qi flowing.

Finding Normal

"Normal" is obviously a major misnomer here, as life can't possibly be normal having cancer and going through chemo. Actually, thinking about it, is there ever a real "Normal" in one's life? I gather that routines are normal, but most everything else: relationships, attitudes, mind frames, desires,... are always changing. As my Buddha (therapist Stephen Clarke) reminds me, "The only constant is that nothing is constant." Normal for this blog's sake is a measure of what activities and lifestyle attributes can I participate in, and how can I maintain living, working, and such.

Working with the physical patterns, I have found a way to keep working as a photographer especially on my "on" weeks when I haven't had chemo. I haven't told my clients about my situation and have managed to schedule work and light travel for good days, including jobs for HBO, Amazon, TBC, Seawall, and more. I'm keeping the lights on, and working slowly but steadily at growing my business.

Socially, I have had to pull back a bit and miss some stuff. But not much! I have still managed a

Brother Scott and I going Phishing. Hitting 5 shows in 3 weeks and 3 states!

couple Bike Parties, First Thursday concert, Patterson Park concerts, Baltimore Symphony, Cougar Lounges, a LLS charity gala, Phish concerts, a Trey concert, MHS 30th reunion, trips to Cape Cod, New York, Assateague Island, Annapolis, and probably some I'm forgetting. Chemo brain is a real thing - forgetting things immediately, not being able to come up with words, short term memory fuzz, general stupidity...some people feel like they have chemo brain all the time as well. I know I've had it for years before this.

Physically, this one changes a lot. After the first few treatments I could still be found in the gym and doing more heavy house stuff and activities. Then the beat-down really kicked in and it has been very sporadic. Big dip for treatments 5 and 6, then steady uplift from 7-10. My cardio is way off at this point, I get too dizzy and out of breath. No biking, so occasional stationary bike at the gym, walks in Patterson Park and hikes at Patapsco Valley State Park. Sometimes I can even do some weights on the "on" weeks.

Acceptance is my main lesson here. Accepting I am off, accepting I am weaker, accepting that I will feel like shit, accepting that I will cry, accepting that there is a universal plan, accepting I won't be making much money, accepting that if I am tired I can nap and not feel guilty, accepting that there are parts of my life falling apart, accepting that I am going to do the best I can and move forward...

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